Upper School
US Curriculum

Interdisciplinary Studies

The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies offers innovative courses that draw on knowledge, skills, materials and content that span two or more disciplines. Some courses in this department are listed solely within this department while others are cross-listed where relevant.

Interdisciplinary Study Courses

List of 25 items.

  • Service Leadership for Social Impact

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Application required of all students

    Service Leadership for Social Impact provides students with the opportunity to explore the origins and complexities of contemporary social issues in Westchester County in order to engage in effective and impactful service to the community. Using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, students will examine what these global issues look like on a hyper-local level.

    Students will ponder such questions as:
    • What does poverty, food insecurity, access to education, homelessness, access to healthcare, etc. look like in Westchester?
    • Who are our neighbors affected by these social ills?
    • Which organizations in our area are addressing these issues?
    • How are these organizations addressing these needs?
    Through a series of short- and long-term service-learning and community service projects, students will gain the tools and skills necessary not only to engage actively with community partners but to do so with a deep sense of purpose.

    This year-long course is open to students in tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades and is highly recommended to students who lead service-oriented clubs in the Upper School.
  • America’s National Parks: Deserts, Forests, Mountains and Oceans — Joshua Tree, Sequoia & the Channel Islands

    People come from all over the world to see America’s National Parks. This course combines outdoor skills and an increasing knowledge of the magnificent natural wonders America has to offer.

    Students will learn what features determine a park and also how to explore a park in a safe and environmentally responsible way. In addition, students will learn about the delicate balance parks have with opening the land for all to see and enjoy while trying to mitigate the destructive effects overpopulation can have on some of our most beautiful and most fragile ecosystems. The Leave No Trace Principles and outdoor stewardship will be reinforced throughout the course. 

    What makes a national park? How are they made? What is the process? These are not straightforward questions, and there is much discussion to be had on the politics behind the parks and why the designation is so important for conservation. How do we account for the fact that many parks are on lands of Indigenous peoples? Students will be assigned various parks and will present on why they became parks and what they protect. They will also identify if there are any unique challenges or conflicts about the park they are researching. 

    The course will also focus on the biology in the three parks we are visiting as part of the required course trip over Spring Break: Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park and Channel Islands National Park. Students will research the key resources each park protects and will study the endemic flora and fauna of each of the three parks.
  • Yearbook Production: "Hilltop"

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits

    This course is designed for those who are interested in working on the yearbook. Upon joining this course, each student will be assigned to be the editor for a specific section of the yearbook. Through the completion of the yearbook pages, students will build and strengthen their organization skills and learn how best to manage yearbook page deadlines.
  • The Vision: Multiple Views, Rich Media

    (English Minor) -- Enrollment will be limited to 12 students, including two editors-in-chief (who have already been selected), three managing editors (to be selected from current sophomores for a two-year commitment in junior year and senior year, when they will serve as editors-in-chief), two literary editors, two art editors, one web editor, and one media/sound editor. 

    When applying, students should indicate for which role or roles they feel they are best suited. Past experience with InDesign or a similar graphics program is a plus, though not a requirement, and students should mention what relevant experience they have in their applications. 

    This course will involve students creating a year-long presentation of Hackley creative writing and visual arts through print, web, and digital media. Students will begin by soliciting, evaluating, and editing literature and artwork for inclusion in a new online literary and art magazine. They will help create and manage a basic online posting system on the Hackley website, and they will work as editors to support the online presence of these materials—both for internal and external audiences—with regular bi-weekly postings. 

    Students will select the best of the art and literature gathered for online presentation and will include this work in the printed publication. 

    Students will learn to use the InDesign graphics program to develop and manage visual layouts. They will design the printed publication and see it through all phases of editing, proofing, and print production. They will also have to work within a budget, which will necessitate creative decision-making as they bring their vision (pun intended) into reality. And they will be required to support and meet frequent deadlines for various components and phases of the project, culminating with delivery in the spring of The Vision publication.

    In addition, The Vision will offer published students the opportunity to read their work (or have it read) for an audio CD that will accompany the printed magazine. Students working on the publication will help support the recording process and oversee the creation of the CD. Throughout the process of presenting both online and print versions of The Vision, students will learn to combine and manipulate different types of media such as text, audio, and graphics. They will employ microphones, scanners, and other input devices to gather information.

    While students will be enrolled based on application for specific roles in the editorial structure, where they will hold primary responsibility, students will participate in and learn all aspects of the project.
  • Electronic Publishing I: Intro to the Dial

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits

    This course is a prerequisite for Electronic Publishing II: The Dial (732a)

    This course combines the study of print and digital media with an emphasis on creating multimedia stories. As the course is designed to give structure to the creation and maintenance of the student newspaper, the Dial, students will explore all aspects of the journalistic process, including writing and presenting content using electronic publishing applications for both print and online publications. Students will learn the basics of journalistic writing, including composing interesting leads and nut grafs, and organizing facts and supporting quotations.

    Students will engage in hands-on practice to develop proficiency in publishing content on the Dial website and in preparing layouts for the Dial’s print publication.
  • Electronic Publishing II: The Dial

    3 meetings per seven-day cycle/2 credits
    Prerequisite: Electronic Publishing I: Intro to the Dial or permission of the Department Chair

    This course continues building on the skills learned in Electronic Publishing I. This is an advanced course that explores all aspects of the journalistic process begun in Electronic Publishing I and is designed to give structure to the creation and maintenance of the student newspaper, the Dial, in both its print and digital formats.

    Students will enhance their skills in journalistic writing begun in Electronic Publishing I; however, the emphasis in this course is on the elements of production, including scheduling, assignments, design, layout and graphics. Students will use computers and a variety of commercially available software packages for desktop and web publishing and multimedia creation. The course will center around hands-on practice. Requirements center around the timely completion and publication of the print and digital formats of the student newspaper.
  • Advanced Electronic Publishing II: Dial Editors

    4 meetings per eight-day cycle/3 credits
    Prerequisite: Electronic Publishing II: The Dial

    This course continues to build on the skills learned in Electronic Publishing II and to explore all aspects of the journalistic process in the electronic publishing track. The course focuses on the creation and maintenance of Hackley’s award-winning student newspaper, the Dial.

    In addition to practicing advanced skills in journalistic writing, layout, design and graphics, students will develop the collaborative leadership roles needed to complete each issue of the Dial in an efficient and timely manner. Students are responsible for all elements of production—scheduling, assignments, mentoring, design, layout and graphics. Students also will develop proficiency in using commercially available software packages for desktop and web publishing, color printers, digital cameras and scanners.
  • Independent Research in English

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/ 2 credits
    Open to juniors and seniors by application

    This course offers students the opportunity to conduct advanced research and writing at the college level under the guidance of English faculty. Students will develop their own topics or research questions, review the scholarly literature in the relevant discipline(s), understand and employ the research methodologies relevant to their research, and write on the research question, ultimately producing significant research essays. 

    While much research can be carried out using resources available at Hackley, we will support students in developing relationships with scholars whose own work is relevant to the students’ research. 
    This course requires a short application, which will be reviewed in combination with the student’s overall academic record in English. The application link can be found on HOL. Students currently taking Independent Research may enroll in these courses for a second year with the permission of their instructor.
  • Independent Research in History

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to juniors and seniors by application

    This course offers students the opportunity to conduct advanced research and writing at the college level under the guidance of History faculty. Students will develop their own topics or research questions, review the scholarly literature in the relevant discipline(s), understand and employ the research methodologies relevant to their research, and write on the research question, ultimately producing significant research essays. 

    While much research can be carried out using resources available at Hackley, we will support students in developing relationships with scholars whose own work is relevant to the students’ research. 

    This course requires a short application, which will be reviewed in combination with the student’s overall academic record in History. The application link can be found on HOL. Students currently taking Independent Research may enroll in these courses for a second year with the permission of their instructor.
  • Independent Research in Oral History and Storytelling

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to all students by application

    This course will allow students to explore how memory shapes our understanding of the past through the creation and interpretation of oral history. The first part of the course will focus on building interview skills through both hands-on practice and the study of interview-based works, such as podcasts and documentaries. In the latter part of the course, students will design and carry out an inquiry-based project rooted in their own original oral history research. These projects might include a documentary-style film or podcast, traditional research paper or a journalistic or literary piece.  Put another way, students will learn how to listen to people’s stories in order to tell a story of their own.

    This course requires a short application, which will be reviewed in combination with the student’s overall academic record in English and/or History. The application link can be found on HOL. Students currently taking Independent Research may enroll in these courses for a second year with the permission of their instructor.
  • Great Books Seminar

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to 11th and 12th graders or by instructor permission
    This course allows students to dive into some of the most influential and enduring works of literature, philosophy, theology, history and political science. Students will have the opportunity to engage with these texts in a critical and thoughtful manner, focusing purely on the texts themselves for fundamental truths about themselves and the world, including such themes as the nature of morality and justice, what is truth and how do we distinguish truth and falsehood, conceptions of the divine, how to best organize and design political communities, and the nature of self and consciousness, to name just a few. Importantly, texts are organized in such a way that they speak to each other on similar questions across time, allowing students to see how these questions have been addressed by different authors and perspectives, equipping them with a broader understanding of the world in which we live.

    The class is designed as a St. John's College seminar, with no lectures and an emphasis on collaborative learning through purposeful dialogue, structured around a series of close readings and discussions of key works. Each class would focus on a particular text. Class participation is the lifeblood of the class. In addition to discussion, each trimester, students will be required to produce a 3- to 5-page paper examining a theme, idea or question raised through our readings. The purpose of the course is to expose students to classical works from antiquity through modernity that have shaped our human understanding of the world and to encourage students to deepen their skills reading and analyzing more complex texts critically and independently. 

    Readings may include selections from:
    • Homer’s “Odyssey” and “Iliad”;
    • Plato's "Republic" and other dialogues;
    • Thucydides, Herodotus and Polybius;
    • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
    • Aristotle's “Nicomachean Ethics,” “Politics” and “Metaphysics”;
    • Augustine’s “Confessions”;
    • Confucius’ “Analects”;
    • the Hebrew Bible and Gospels;
    • Hindu and Buddhist texts, including the Bhagavad Gita and selections from Early Buddhist Discourses;
    • Medieval, Renaissance and modern works, such as Basho, travel journals and haiku;
    • Descartes’ “Meditations” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”;
    • Sophocles, Aristophanes, Ibsen and Shakespeare; and
    • Short stories and poetry from various authors.
  • The Spoken Word: Creativity, Craft & Delivery

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits

    This interdisciplinary course is offered with a BIPOC perspective in mind, thus supporting the ideals of Hackley's mission statement to learn from various perspectives. Students will study numerous spoken word styles, which may include texts of Moth-inspired personal tales, contemporary and classical monologues, great political speeches, stand-up comedy routines, hip-hop lyrics, slam poetry and other oratorical styles from diverse cultures.

    The instructors will co-teach in a format that allows for an open exchange of ideas and information with a goal of highlighting cultures and people often overlooked in a traditional educational environment. Participants will learn to write and perform these styles during the class. The culmination of the class will be the creation of a contemporary or electronic journal that will capture the highlights of the year.
  • Hexameter to Hip-Hop: Topics in Ancient to Modern Poetry

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits

    This course is devoted to the idea that great art is great art, whether the artist is a breakbeat poet, hip-hop artist, classic rock musician, modernist poet, Renaissance sonneteer, early playwright, ancient myth maker or anything in between. We will look at the shared technical skills, topics and themes that keep people listening and reading.

    Questions we will explore together include:
    • What makes great poetry and music?
    • How are modern poets in conversation with those who come before them, and how can we join that conversation?
    • How has poetry at its best always explored questions of social justice; race, class and ethnicity; the relationship between the individual and society; power and oppression; gender and sexuality; and what it means to be human?
    We will enjoy and explore many different forms, images, symbols and language-based patterns. We will ask in what varying ways can we explore and write about poetry? In what varying ways can we write our own poetry?

    This course will include brief essays and will culminate in students producing, in collaboration with their peers, an analytical or creative project, which could include an anthology of poems or recordings with an artist statement—possibly for publication.

    While the instructors have poetry and music in mind, we will ask you to bring in your own, as well, so that we can build our definition of great poetic art together. We will look at translations, works written on similar topics and themes, and works written in response to one another. No knowledge of Latin or Greek is necessary. We will have some Zoom guests and some guests in person and maybe a trip to see a live performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.
  • Public Speaking

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to all Upper School students

    (Note: This course does not satisfy the Visual/Performing Arts graduation requirement.)

    This course will assist students in developing better public speaking skills through the use of voice, speech and presentation techniques. Topics covered in this class will include: 
    • Presenting informative, persuasive, storytelling, demonstration, impromptu and group speeches;
    • Dealing with stage fright;
    • Using one’s voice to one’s advantage; and
    • Relating to the audience.
    Students will be required to write their own speeches throughout the course of the year. They will watch and analyze great inspirational speeches, as well as those of their classmates.
  • Foundations of Reading, Writing and Thinking

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to all Upper School students with preference to freshmen, sophomores and juniors

    Focused on the practical, immediately useful basics of writing, “Foundations of Reading, Writing and Thinking” is intended for students who want to improve their skills as readers and writers. 
    Language allows us to communicate our ideas and to learn those of others. The more skillfully we put our ideas into words, the better we can understand ourselves and the world around us. Focused on practical reading, writing and thinking skills, the goal of this course is to help Upper School students develop and strengthen their reading and writing skills, and through them to strengthen their thinking and communication skills. We will examine both published and student-generated writing. 

    We will begin by working on introductions and theses: what to include in them when writing and what to look for in them when reading. Next, we will work on organization and support of ideas within paragraphs and organization of paragraphs within essays: how to organize to express ideas clearly and how to read actively to discern the organization and meaning of others. Then, we will take up the often-neglected conclusion, giving it the same attention. In the process, we will focus on close reading skills and on developing sensitivity to diction, syntax and tone. 

    As the year progresses—and in response to student needs—we will also work on editing and proofreading skills, which will involve learning the necessary grammar and punctuation. As much as possible, we will deal with grammar through online exercise and quizzes. In the second and third trimesters, the teacher will provide students with individualized instruction and feedback.
  • Historical and Literary Analysis via Role-Play Games

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/ 2 credits
    Enrollment limited

    This interdisciplinary course will use role-play gaming and collaborative world-building as a means to analyze literature and historical periods, write creative fiction and foster social learning. The structure of course units will involve building a fictionalized world and characters based on literary and historical texts and films and then roleplaying scenes and scenarios to foster ideas for individual student writing and group presentations.

    In addition to role-playing, creative writing and making presentations for class, students will learn about game system creation, reflect on meta-gaming and lead games as the head storyteller—which requires public speaking and improvisation skills.

    Potential game modules may include Collaborative Worldbuilding by Trent Hergenrader, Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf, Dungeons and Dragons by Wizards of the Coast, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games and Dread by The Impossible Dream, among others.
  • Economics

    5 meetings per eight-day cycle/3 credits

    Economics is the study of the choices people make about how to use scarce resources, such as time, money and the natural world. How much time should I study for a test, and how much time should I hang out with friends? Is there a “best” way to decide? Economics tries to figure that out.

    What should businesses produce? What if some people can’t afford a place to live? Should the government build more schools, more tanks or less of everything? Exactly how bad is it to cut down a rainforest? How do we make these decisions? Economists have offered many answers to these questions, and some of these answers have had profound effects on modern history.

    This course will attempt to understand the questions, the answers and those profound effects. In doing so, we will examine the principles of micro and macroeconomics, such as supply and demand, the theory of the firm, competition/monopoly, the Classicals and the Keynesians, fiscal and monetary policy, and more.
  • Government and Politics: The United States and the World

    5 meetings per eight-day cycle/3 credits

    This course examines government and politics from both domestic and international perspectives. In an era of diminished interest and participation, this course aims to instruct and engage students in the political process. By reading, discussing and writing about secondary texts and current events, students will gain both a historical and contemporary point of view of the vagaries and complexities of political systems.
  • American Law

    5 meetings per eight-day cycle/3 credits

    This course is designed to begin to explore how the law works and give students some actual experience in doing what lawyers and judges do.

    It consists of the following units/topics: 
    1. What is Law? To start off the course, we will examine the different sources of law (statutory, case law, etc.) and the organization of the American court system, and we will get a basic understanding of how laws are used. In examining how our system is structured, students will identify and discuss biases and perspectives in the legal system;
    2. Criminal Law and Juvenile Justice: This topic will fascinate students who consume shows like Law & Order. In this unit, they get a deeper understanding of the challenges behind criminal justice, such as balancing protecting the community with rehabilitation for the offender;
    3. Individual Rights and Liberties (Constitutional Law): The U.S. Constitution is a unique and rich source of personal rights that has made the United States an example to the rest of the world. But how to interpret the Constitution and the rights it affords has been a long, difficult and ongoing process. Some of the most interesting debates contained in the law can be found in this field of law. Some topics will include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process, the right to privacy, and discrimination. This unit may vary year-to-year depending on what issues the Supreme Court is addressing in its current term. During this unit, students will closely read Supreme Court cases and interpret the decisions of the justices;
    4. Torts (A Civil Wrong): Almost everyone is aware of the “lawsuit,” but most people do not really understand the principles behind lawsuits. This unit will bring this concept into focus and highlight some different kinds of torts and provide examples by examining real cases.
    5. Evidence & Trial Procedure: Students will learn how to communicate clearly and effectively by learning trial advocacy skills, including how evidence is presented, how to conduct direct and cross-examinations, how to make objections and how to apply laws to evidence in order to make legal arguments, etc.
  • Food and Power: The Science and Politics Behind What We Eat

    5 meetings per eight-day cycle/3 credits
    Open to juniors and seniors; priority given to seniors.

    Food is necessary for life, yet it is far more than a necessity. What we eat is tied to our culture, history, political systems, beliefs and available technologies. What we eat influences our own health and the health of the planet. This interdisciplinary course looks at food and its relationships with power, culture and the environment. We will also cook, garden and learn about the science and nutrition behind what we eat. Course work will include readings from varied sources, class discussions, hands-on activities, projects, presentations and papers.
  • Machine Learning with Music and Art

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Prerequisite: Intro to Computer Science 710 or placement exam

    This course is recommended for students who are comfortable moving into syntax-based programming and have a basic understanding of loops, selection statements, variables and logical thought.

    Does building a new digital musical instrument that responds to your gestures sound like an interesting project? How about creating an interactive visual art installation that reacts to movement? Students in this course will learn about the fundamentals of machine learning and apply those skills to controlling sound, music and visual imagery with human gestures and real-time data.

    In this course, students will use the Processing programming environment, machine learning modeling software, output software to create sound and such input devices as cameras, computer mice, hardware sensors and game controllers to create their multimedia projects. The course focuses on learning the software, hardware and algorithms used in machine learning environments and employing creativity and best practices in creating new real-time interactive systems in the arts.
  • Architecture and Design

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Prerequisite: Foundations of Studio Art 811 or 3-D Sculpture & Design 822 OR permission of the instructor

    Limited enrollment. Preference given to seniors.

    This course introduces students to the world of buildings and their design. Students begin the year with a variety of mechanical and schematic drawing exercises or “puzzles,” designed to teach them how to visualize complex architectural forms in space. Students will also become familiar with a range of architectural tools and techniques as they learn to confidently draft fundamental design elements, such as plans, sections and elevations. In the final trimester, students will have the opportunity to design and draft a full set of plans for an original structure of their own conception, as well as construct a scaled model of their building.

    Throughout the year, as a means of cultivating a deeper appreciation for the role of architecture in society, the storied history of architecture will be presented and discussed. A full-day field trip into Manhattan is scheduled for the spring.
  • Introduction to Filmmaking

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Prerequisite: Intermediate Studio Art (812 or 814) or Architecture and Design 842 OR special permission of the instructor

    This is a production-oriented course that guides students on a step-by-step exploration of the fundamentals of filmmaking, including brainstorming short film ideas, scriptwriting, character development, storyboarding, animatic creation, directing and cinematography essentials, picture editing, sound design and titles/credits. After a short overview of cinema and animation history, students begin production of a short film of approximately 10 to 20 minutes in length.

    Grouped in teams, students will brainstorm, write, direct, shoot and edit a short film that emphasizes a strong story structure. Teams will be encouraged to share these key responsibilities to give each group member a first-hand understanding of the filmmaking process. With the permission of the instructor, some students may work on shorter solo film projects. Video camera basics will be covered to allow students to take full advantage of the camera’s tools to further enhance a film’s aesthetic quality and creative potential.

    Students may choose to explore their artistic visions by making films of any genre, including fiction, non-fiction, animated, live-action, music-themed, documentary, comedy, drama, etc. Throughout the year, students will be introduced to various professionals in the field who will advise them on their conceptual, pre-production and post-production phases of their films.
  • Psychology in Film

    3 meetings per eight-day cycle/2 credits
    Open to seniors; limited enrollment

    Understanding human behavior, whether it be that of others or of oneself, is at the core of all of life’s endeavors. This introductory course in psychology is designed to explore human behavior, social development and mental processes and how they are portrayed in film. Students will learn how biological heritage, surrounding environment and experiences influence development and behavior.  Through viewing documentary and commercial films, as well as through the examination of psychologists and their research, students will gain a clear understanding about what motivates human behavior and how we perceive, remember, adapt, solve problems, form relationships and find our place in the world.

    Topics of focus will include development, learning, memory, intelligence, motivation, emotion, personality, social psychology and abnormal psychology. Theorists of study will include, but will not be limited to, Freud, Piaget, Erikson, Pavlov, Skinner, Bandura, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Maslow, Gardner, Rogers, Milgram and Zimbardo. Students will connect psychological theory and experimental findings to the films viewed in class to help unravel the history of the field of psychology.

    Some of the films viewed will contain an R rating or may not have a rating. As such, these films may contain violence, brief nudity and strong language. Specific clips or films in their entirety will be chosen to scaffold and reinforce our discussions about the history of psychology and psychological theory. With this in mind, caregiver permission is required for this course.
  • Debate

    (History Minor) -- Debate will provide students opportunities within the school day to prepare for scheduled debates. Students will be able to improve their research skills, their ability to put forward a cogent argument, and their public speaking skills.

    Students who sign up for the course are expected to participate in interscholastic debates. These debates occur on Saturdays throughout the school year. Students who wish to take part in competitive debates must sign up for this elective if their schedules allow. Students whose schedules do not allow them to enroll in this course may be allowed to participate on a case-by-case basis.